Best Offensive Player:
Jameel Sewell, quarterback
After assuming the quarterback reins in week four, Jameel Sewell started the last nine games of the season, showing flashes of arm strength and elusiveness outside the pocket. A 6-foot-3-inch, 219-pound southpaw, Sewell closed the year 143 of 247 for 1,342 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions—a Virginia freshman record. Sewell earned honorable mention freshman All-America honors and was second on the team in rushing yards (200) and rushing touchdowns (4).
Best Defensive Player:
Chris Long, defensive end
If there’s a poster boy for the philosophy preached by Virginia’s talented defensive coordinator, Mike London, then Chris Long is clearly the guy. At 6 foot 4 inches and 284 pounds, Long has the pedigree and physical tools to be a force but what really separates him from most is his intensity on the field. Long posted a career-high 57 tackles last year, including a team-high 12 tackles for a loss and 21 quarterback pressures. With the emergence of Jeffrey Fitzgerald on the opposite side of the line, watch for a breakout season from Long.
In the Spotlight:
The Virginia offensive line
With four starters returning, including mammoth tackle Eugene Monroe (6 feet 6 inches, 315 pounds) and athletic guard Branden Albert (6 feet 7 inches, 315 pounds), the offensive line looks primed for big things. If this unit protects the trenches, then Sewell—who’s young but talented—and the running game will deliver, improving Virginia’s chances in the win column.
By the Numbers
81 Tackles made by Jon Copper, a former walk-on turned star linebacker. The 81 stops were a team high last year.
283.4 Yards per game allowed by the Virginia defense, the fourth-best mark in the ACC.
6 The number of home games on this year’s schedule, including contests against Duke (Sept. 8), Georgia Tech (Sept. 22), Pittsburgh (Sept. 29), Connecticut (Oct. 13), Wake Forest (Nov. 3) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 24).
15.1 Average points per game scored for the Virginia offense, 11th in the ACC last season.
5.5 Sacks posted by defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald, a team high. Fitzgerald also logged 64 tackles, two interceptions and forced two fumbles in 2006.
61 Career catches for Tom Santi, a 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound tight end who is expected to make a big-time impact this season.
91.7 Virginia’s red zone scoring percentage for 2006, the best mark in the ACC.